1. The Setting
Good Guys: Texas Tech Red Raiders (0-0, 0-0)
Bad Guys: Ole Miss Rebels/Black Bears/Land Sharks (0-0, 0-0)
When to Watch: Saturday, September 1st @ 11:00 a.m.
Where to Watch: NRG Stadium | Houston, Texas
How to Watch: ESPN | WatchESPN
How to Listen: 97.3 FM | Affiliates | TuneIn App
The Line: Texas Tech -2 to -2.5 (OddsShark)
2. Uniform Tracker
This is the uniform combinations from last year. I still love the Oklahoma State throwbacks and I’ll always love the all black look.
3. The Big Storyline
This is somewhat difficult to do given the fact that no football has been played and we don’t know all that much about what the team is going to be like because of closed practices and little, if any, video that lets us know how things are going. I’m fine with that, it makes Saturday more like Christmas morning more than anything else.
We have an idea as to what to expect, but there are a handful of questions that have persisted since the spring.
Who will start at quarterback?
Will the defensive line be able to replace Mycheleon Thomas?
Will the defense turn the ball over like it did last year?
Who will be the playmakers on the offensive side of the ball?
Will the offensive line do a better job of protecting the quarterback and opening holes for the running game?
Will the defense do a better job of getting to the opponent’s quarterback?
Will the young cornerbacks be ready for the outstanding receivers from Ole Miss?
We’ll likely know a lot more after Saturday, there’s just a lot of unknown right now. And this would be an opportune time to remind you that take what you see on Saturday with a grain of salt, it’s not as bad or as good as the result. But you should also not ignore the reality of the situation either. If, for example, the pass defense continues to struggle, then you should probably consider this a harbinger of things to come regarding the pass defense. They could get better, but don’t ignore the results.
4. Keys for Texas Tech
- The Texas Tech offensive line needs to be dominating up front and rush the heck out of the ball. A lot has been made of Ole Miss’ inability to stop the run. This is true. Ole Miss was in the far back half of rankings in a ton of the important areas, including plain old Rushing S&P+ (76), Rushing Success Rate (88), Rushing IsoPPP (100), and Adjusted Line Yards (99). Quite frankly, they were just not good last year and there is no expectation that they’ll be good on the defensive line. With that being said, the offensive line needs to be dominating and not soft. They need to move dirt and bodies. Be great.
- I need Eli Howard and Kolin Hill and Tony Jones to create pressure on Jordan Ta’Amu and make things uncomfortable. Texas Tech really wasn’t great at this last year and they’ll need to be much better. The cornerbacks are young and relatively inexperienced and they’ll be going up against Ole Miss’ best part of their offense. The best way to help those young guys will be to pressure the quarterback. I thought Howard did a much better job of pressuring the quarterback late in the year last year, but that needs to be a priority and continue.
- Texas Tech might have an element of surprise with Kevin Johns and I’ll be interested to see how the personnel will be utilized. Ole Miss hasn’t necessarily seen what Texas Tech is going to do and if there are enough different wrinkles, then Texas Tech could really throw the Ole Miss defense. It would be fun to see Texas Tech come out in the pistol in 21 personnel (2 running backs and 1 tight end).
5. What to Watch
These are highlights from Ole Miss’s last game where they defeated #14 Mississippi State (please note that Mississippi State lost their starting quarterback with a bad leg injury). A few things stand out to me: A.J. Brown (#1 on the field for Ole Miss) is a physical and dominating receiver. Oh, and he’s fast and he’s got some breakaway speed to boot. He’s going to be a really tough cover . . . Ole Miss likes to have their running game center on the quarterback reading the defense. I think some of the runs don’t have any decision made by the quarterback, but the quarterback is integral . . . The Ole Miss defense was opportunistic, but Mississippi State just handed them some turnovers. I thought that the first interception was just an underthrow (and a nice play by the Ole Miss defender) and the second pick was just terrible by Mississippi State . . . . Please note that Ole Miss couldn’t get a defender to even touch the quarterback despite rushing a handful. They just had very little push . . . Mississippi State rushes three and one on a delay and the delay gets Ta’amu, but the pocket is breaking down. I’d like to see a lot of that . . . that move that Brown puts on that poor defender is something he’ll do against Texas Tech, he’s going to get at least one touchdown I’d guess . . . Ta’amu has some nice mobility, but like most quarterbacks, it’s tough to make passes on the run (unless you are Patrick Mahomes) . . . on both big runs, the Ole Miss offensive line likes to pull and there’s a lot of moving parts there and I think that Texas Tech likes to do the same thing, that will be interesting to watch . . .
6. Coach’s Corner
The Matt Luke press conference and Luke had some opening comments about Texas Tech.
“Excited about game week, this is an awesome opportunity on a big stage. I have a lot of respect for Texas Tech. I think it will be a really tough opener. I think we’ll find out a lot about our team right off the bat. They (Texas Tech) have 10 starters coming back on defense, a defense that led the Big 12 in turnovers (29). They’re really physical inside with Brooks and Allen and have two physical safeties. Their offense is always good, they’re an offense that spreads the field, gets their playmakers in space. They have a really good receiver in Vasher who is 6-foot-6. He can stretch the field and make plays. The game will be a huge challenge right off the bat and a good litmus test for us early. A national TV game against a really good opponent, we are excited about that.”
Luke also addressed the Texas Tech defense and the idea that Texas Tech likes to force turnovers.
“You always prepare for ball security, so that’s always something you’re working on. You are aware that they’re very good, and the improvement they made from 2016-2017 they got better in virtually every category. This is a defense that’s getting better and returning almost all of their starters, so it’s a very formidable defense.”
Luke also talks about the Texas Tech quarterbacks and notes that Ole Miss runs a similar offense (which they do) and preparing for both Jett Duffey and McLane Carter.
“The challenge is the QB’s are different. You got Carter who started the Texas game then you have Jett Duffey who is more of an athlete. They are totally different, and you have to prepare for both. Sometimes you don’t know exactly who you’ll get which makes it a challenge. We have practiced against both. We play a similar style offense, so our defense has seen it. They’ve seen Jordan (Ta’amu) pull the ball and drop back pass, so we’ll be prepared.”
Luke also expects Texas Tech to try to run the ball given Ole Miss’ inability to stop the run last year.
“Tre King is coming back. He is a very one-cut physical runner, likes to get downhill. They have most of the O-line coming back They have seen us on tape, our trouble stopping the run, so I think you’re going to see that early in the game.”
That’s right folks, the typical 7th item here, which was the game prediction, will be it’s own post (scheduled for 10:00 a.m. so come back at that time!) and in place of it, I’ve got some iconography. These will change from week to week, so you can’t be expecting the Tacos vs. Burritos Matchup of the Week on a week-to-week basis.
Needs Work: I think we can all agree that the thing that probably needs the most work is the quarterback spot, at least that’s what maybe the consensus is. If the quarterback position is one where had we somewhat of a known, then I think most folks would predict a 7 or 8 win team for Texas Tech.
Multi-Tooled: I have a feeling that safety Vaughnte Dorsey is going to get quite the workout against Ole Miss. I think the RBBLS will look to run the ball and I’d expect Dorsey to have to support the run and be wary of the pass. The key will be if Ole Miss will get to the second level.
Lightning Fast: I think we’re going to see a breakout performance from DeQuan Bowman, he’s fast and I think he’s going to be very reliable. I would hope after two years, he’s got the system down and I think he’s got speed that a lot of defenses aren’t accounting for.
Tacos vs. Burritos Matchup of the Week: Receiver A.J. Brown (6-1/225) against Damarcus Fields (6-0/200) is my matchup of the week. Fields impressed quite a bit last year, a fluid defensive back who made a few nice plays, but my hope is that over the spring and preseason, that Fields has tightened down his ability to blanket defenders. I think Fields will take chances maybe more than Gibbs would want, but he’s too talented to not play. If he can stick with Brown, then that takes away a big part of the RBBLS offense. This is a huge opportunity for Fields (and truthfully, Ole Miss will move Brown around quite a bit, so it’s not just Fields, but Adrian Frye, Desmon Smith and John Davis, Jr.)